Book Reviews

Book Review: Raising Children God’s Way (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones is a highly respected preacher and author who was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London for almost 30 years (1943 to 1968). He has written commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, Ephesians, the beginning of Acts, extensively on Romans, 1 John, and studies on Genesis and Hebrews. He has written about the cross and salvation, revival, the Holy Spirit, and life in Christ.

For all of his large books (700+ pages on 1 John alone), he has managed to write a book that is only 85 pages long. That said, his commentaries are the transcriptions of his sermons, and this book comes from his series on Ephesians. If you have those volumes, then you pretty much have this book. If not, then…

In five chapters, Lloyd-Jones exposits Ephesians 6:1-4. He writes on:

  1. Submissive children
  2. Unbelieving parents
  3. Discipline and the modern mind
  4. Balanced discipline
  5. Godly upbringing

No one is perfect, and neither is any Christian family, even if every family member is converted. Non-Christian parents can raise kids who show respect and who are respectable, just as Christian parents can raise children who are disrespectful and unwise. But for the most part, as much as is possible, it should not be this way among Christian parents. In the first chapter Lloyd-Jones writes, that Christian families “have a unique opportunity of witnessing to the world at this present time by just being different. We can be true evangelists by showing this discipline, this law and order, this true relationship between parents and children” (7).

He notes that the breakdown in the home leads to a breakdown everywhere in society, something which we see can every day (13). There are children whose parents care little about them, so they are rude, disrespectful towards authorities, they commit crimes, etc., because (1) they haven’t been taught and (2) because they want attention. They want to be cared for, and they find that care in accept from other kids their age who also don’t know how to live. They don’t understand how the world really works, but they understand that it is difficult and it is unfair.

The parent should image God. Their father graciously gave them everything. He lavishes them with wisdom, blessings, a church family in which to learn and grow. They in turn should love and cherish each other in the midst of their children, and then love, cherish, and discipline their children, teaching them about what is wise in God’s eyes. We are to be like Christ, humble, yet brave; merciful and strong.

Lloyd-Jones preached these messages to a mixed congregation made up of singles and married couples. In chapter two he rightly urges the unmarried not to block out teaching on marriage and parenting because “if you are to function as a Christian you must be able to help such a person,” that is, you should be able to assist and exhort married couples and parents with gospel truths (21). In fact, he says, “It is your duty and business to help them and assist them” (21). What about the children of unsaved parents? You should now the gospel well enough to be able to encourage those children, teenagers, and young adults too.

He helpfully points out that these children (of whatever age they are) can and should take a stand on what is right to do, but they “should so so in the right spirit,” and never “in a contemptuous or impatient manner” (25). You should obey and honor your parents, unless they are trying to prevent you from worshiping Christ or if they are trying to lead you into sin (26).

In the third chapter he critiques the (then… and still today) modern way of thinking that children shouldn’t be punished, but only praised. They should be allowed to think and choose for themselves what they want. This has gone to the extreme today in allowing children to “decide” not on whether they will learn their multiplication tables, but on their own gender. Looking to the Bible, God disciplines those who are his children. Proverbs is chock full of wisdom. Life is hard, so get wisdom. If you don’t have it, you won’t last. Parents who love their children discipline them and teach them wisdom.

What does that discipline look like? Chapter four answers that question: it should be “balanced” (53). It should not be done to the point where the children are exasperated. They never know what will make their parents happy (because the parents never seem happy). A parent’s actions and temperament should be predictable, not flying off the handle one day over something small and doing nothing over something bigger the next day. Parents must be consistent with their attitudes, with their instructions, and with their own duties. There is more to say, but not enough space to write it out here. Lloyd-Jones wants to prevent parents from falling into the rut of extremes.

Chapter five, “Godly Upbringing,” emphasizes the parents’ role in the home. They are to supplement the teaching of the church. It is not enough to bring your kids to the church youth group once or twice a week and think that that is all they need. They need daily modeling from you. You can have a time of reading the Bible with them and the family, but they need to hear a Christ-centered view of the world from you. They need to see the outworking of your trust in Christ in the highs and the lows of life.

The Spoiled Milk

Children aren’t going to care if “it is right” or if God’s law tells them to obey their parents if the parents aren’t modeling love to their children. The first chapter explains why children should be submissive, but it doesn’t go much into how to shape them into obedient children. While it is a good chapter, the onus is on the reader to think of how to apply that chapter well.

Recommended?

Lloyd-Jones was very wise, intelligent, and self-disciplined man, but he doesn’t speak as someone who sat in his ivory tower church office all day preparing for the Sunday morning message. He spoke as a normal man to normal people, and this comes out in his writing. He is easy to understand, and though some of what he talks about is dated, many of the principles do still apply to us today. Read this and take it to heart.

  • Author: David Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Banner of Truth (June 1, 2007)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Banner of Truth. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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